Mizzou Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz needed some good news and got it on Tuesday when five-star wide receiver Luther Burden committed to the Tigers. Burden, the number 8 recruit overall and the number one wider receiver in the 2022 class, catapults Mizzou's recruiting class to number 14 nationally.
Additionally, with commitments from six four-star recruits, Drinkwitz now has the number 5 recruiting class in the SEC. Only Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, and LSU are higher.
When Eli Drinkwitz was hired at Mizzou in 2019, one of his goals was to make the Tigers presence felt in the St. Louis area's fertile recruiting ground. In 2021 he landed four-star recruits Tyler Macon, Dominic Lovett, and Travion Ford from the St. Louis area. In 2022, he already has commitments from several of the area's top prospects, including three four-stars, Issac Thompson, Marquis Gracial, and Ja'Marion Wayne.
Drinkwitz hasn't landed all the top talent in the state, but no one has collected more in the last two years. Six of the top 18 in-state players have committed to Mizzou.
What Luther Burden gives Eli Drinkwitz and Mizzou immediately is credibility. Burden picked Mizzou over SEC rivals Alabama and Georgia. Hopefully, more recruiting dominoes will fall to the Tigers.
Now for the not-so-good news
To add further woes to a team already with depth challenges, Mizzou announced that three players had suffered season-ending injuries on Thursday. The one player who hurts the Tigers is starting right guard and offensive captain, Case Cook. Cook, a redshirt senior, has been a key piece of the offensive line since 2018 and had 20 straight starts coming into the 2021 season. Even though Cook has one year of eligibility left, he is not expected back in 2022.
Cook said in a tweet, "It's been the biggest honor for me to be a team captain for the last two seasons. I am forever grateful for the people and the opportunity I've had to be at Mizzou."
Defensive End Chris Turner started 25 straight games from 2017-2019. The senior played in all ten games in 2020 and has played in all seven games in 2021. With his career now over, Turner posted a message on Twitter thanking Mizzou fans for their support and saying, "I will forever bleed black and gold."
Defensive Back Mason Pack is a reserve who was used primarily on special teams. Pack will end his career with Mizzou, a senior, and posted on Twitter thanking fans for their support.
The narrowing path to six wins
Looking past this week's bye week, the path to six wins and a bowl game has become very narrow. Suddenly, the game against Vanderbilt on October 30th becomes the most important game of the season thus far. A loss to the 2-5 Commodores would make any path to six wins not only narrow but near impossible.
Following Vanderbilt, the Tigers face Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Arkansas. Georgia, you can forget about it. Certainly, South Carolina would be in play. Florida and Arkansas, it's unlikely the Tigers would beat both. The way this team played against Tennessee and A&M, I doubt they could beat either one.
As Dave Matter reported in the Post-Dispatch on Thursday, Mizzou uses their bye week to focus on penalties and turnovers. Mizzou is the most penalized team in SEC play and among the worst in turnover margin.
Surprisingly, fumbles haven't been a problem for the Tigers, and it's been interceptions. QB Connor Bazelak is tied for the league lead with five. Penalties have either killed Mizzou drives or helped the opponent to keep a drive going.
Either way, for the Tigers to get to six wins, these issues have to be addressed.
It seems the defense is almost helpless. So improving offensive performance by reducing turnovers and penalties is the only path in getting to six wins.
In other words, it's going to take Mizzou to win offensive shootouts to get to six wins and a postseason bowl game. I don't see the defense being much help from now on.
Nevertheless, with the news of Luther Burden and the 2022 recruiting class, Coach Drink is building a solid foundation. Even if the 2021 Tigers fail to get to six wins, the future does look bright.